HOUSTON -- The Astros acquired LaTroy Hawkins last July hoping he would provide relief in the back end of the bullpen, not only for the team, but for Doug Brocail, who was racking up appearances and innings at an alarming rate.
No one could have imagined Hawkins would respond with a nearly perfect two-month run with his new team. The veteran righty allowed one run over 21 innings for the Astros and in doing so became a must-have for general manager Ed Wade this offseason. On Friday, Hawkins secured his future with the Astros, inking a one-year deal worth $3.5 million plus incentives.
Hawkins' performance with the Astros was in stark contrast to his run with the Yankees at the beginning of the season. With New York, Hawkins was wholly unimpressive, posting a 5.71 ERA in 41 innings.
With Houston, however, Hawkins did not allow an earned run in his first 22 games.
"The credit has to go to LaTroy himself," Wade said. "He had a tremendous opportunity to show that he just hit a bump in the road in New York, and that he's capable of doing better things. He took full advantage of it, not only what he brought on the field but fitting into that clubhouse as well."
Hawkins, 35, will assume a similar role in 2009 as he had last season. He'll pitch late in games, along with Brocail, if the Astros are successful in re-upping the 41-year-old right-hander. Earlier in the offseason, the Astros declined to pick up an option on Brocail's contract worth $3.25 million -- a figure slightly less than they just agreed to pay Hawkins.
When they declined the option, the Astros expressed a desire to bring Brocail back at a lower rate.
Wade is seeking pitching help this winter but has focused most of his energy toward retaining the club's own free agents, although he did sign Taiwanese right-hander Chia-Jen Lo to a Minor League contract on Friday. With one week left in the exclusive negotiating window, Wade, who has made offers to Brocail and Randy Wolf, is optimistic that he'll be able to re-sign both. He is, however, less confident he'll be able to strike deals before the exclusive negotiating period ends. Other teams can start talking salary with free agents on Friday.
"We met with Wolf's agents," Wade said. "We had a good meeting, and we'll continue discussions next week.
"Brocail wants to be here. The only stumbling block is how much do we pay? That's what the negotiations boil down to. He's a guy who meant a lot to our club, he has great makeup and still has a lot of gas left in the tank."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.